Denver's art world is booming, and thanks to the city's walkability, visitors can experience some of the best artsy attractions on foot in a single day for less than $50. Take a day off and discover Denver art.
FIRST STOP: CUTTING-EDGE ART IN A CUTTING-EDGE BUILDING
MCA DENVER (MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART DENVER)
This gem of a museum proves that contemporary art can be thought provoking and fun all at once.
MCA Denver's modern and elegant LEED-certified building (designed by renowned London architect David Adjaye) stands out amidst refurbished turn-of-the-century brick warehouses, and is easily recognizable thanks to the whimsical pierced-heart sculpture ("Toxic Schizophrenia," by British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster) that stands at the entrance atop a tall, steel pole.
Once inside, note the uniquely warm, natural lighting; more than 50 percent of the building's exterior wall is a double-skin façade, with insulating tinted curtain walls and an interior of Monopan©, a translucent, honeycomb patterned material that allows natural light in without glare.
MCA Denver features five galleries — Photography, Paper Works, Large Works, New Media and Projects — each with rotating exhibits to guarantee that every visit to the museum offers a new experience. Make your way through the inviting stillness, taking time to linger if a piece catches your eye.
Afterwards, spend a little time relaxing on MCA Denver's rooftop deck, a hidden jewel boasting 360-degree views of the Denver skyline. The garden, created by local landscape architect Karla Dakin, features several steel-framed plant and flower beds suspended in space, floating above a pool of water. The MCA Café on the rooftop offers beverages, organic and locally grown food and free Wi-Fi.
Before heading to the next Denver art destination, stop in at Shop MCA, selling books, DVDs, clothing and limited-edition works of art. It's the perfect spot for an off-beat gift for the art lover in your family.
TIME SPENT: 1.5 hours
THIRD STOP: COWBOY CULTURE
WESTERN ART IN CIVIC CENTER PARK
Head back to the 16th Street Mall and catch a free shuttle. The shuttle will come to its final stop right near Colfax Avenue. Cross Colfax and enter Civic Center Park, a two-block oasis filled with flower gardens and Old West art, located a stone's throw from Colorado's gold-domed Capitol Building. Check out Allen True's murals (located in the park's Greek Theater), depicting pioneers in the wilderness, and the two Western-themed bronze statues, "Bronco Buster" and "On the War Trail," by Denverite Alexander Phimister Proctor. Not exactly Western-themed, but certainly worth a look, is the delightfully eye-catching sculpture outside of the Denver Public Library. "The Yearling," by Donald Lipski, features a pinto pony perched atop a 21-foot-tall red chair, sure to give even the most jaded among us a sense of childlike wonder.
TIME SPENT: .5 hours
FIFTH STOP: ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM AT ITS FINEST
THE CLYFFORD STILL MUSEUM
Clyfford Still is considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century and an originator of the Abstract Expressionism movement. With more than 2,500 artworks in the collection, the Clyfford Still Museum houses the life's work of this visionary artist. Located in a beautiful new building next to the Denver Art Museum, the Still Museum lets you experience these magical works the way the artist intended.
TIME SPENT: 1 hour
SIXTH STOP: 'DENVER'S MOST INTERESTING MUSEUM?' — THE DENVER POST
KIRKLAND MUSEUM OF FINE & DECORATIVE ART
After exiting DAM, we'd normally recommend the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art as the final stop on the tour. But unfortunately this magnificent museum is temporarily closed. The Kirkland Museum is building a new 38,500-square-foot facility and relocating to 12th Avenue and Bannock Street. It's set to open in early 2018. Check the museum's website for updates.
In the meantime, here's a little history. On the corner of 13th and Pearl is the former studio of one of Denver's important painters, Abstract Expressionist Vance Kirkland (1904-1981). Kirkland lived and painted in the city for more than 50 years, creating a world-renowned body of work, and, in the process, becoming a bona fide Mile High City icon. The old museum was famous for its cool, mid-century modernist furnishings. It devoted space to Colorado artists from the 20th century and featured Kirkland's own distinctive and colorful pieces, including work from all phases of his career. The new museum will be even bigger and more amazing than the old one.